Stigma Fighters Teen

A place where voices are heard


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Kelley: My Story

6 years old and screaming for my daddy in the middle of the night because I’m having another nightmare.

8 years old and I’m having nightmares about Her constantly. She’s chasing me in every nightmare. I think she’s trying to kill me.

14 years old and I want to cut because I feel useless and trapped.

16 years old and my thoughts are becoming more and more suicidal.

I’ve had depression for about three years now. The anxiety’s been around for awhile longer. (As evident by the intense nightmares I experienced for years as a young child.) Living with these things means that I wear many masks with many different people, because hiding is the only way to stay safe from their questions. Because wearing my happy mask means they believe me when I say “I’m okay. It’s just been a long week.” I know lying is bad, but I’ve become so accustomed to it, I’m afraid what will happen when I tell the truth; when I say “No, actually. I’m not doing so well today.”

Wearing the masks doesn’t mean the flashbacks and anxiety aren’t still there. They are, and no one can help that. I can’t help that. That’s why the masks are here, to help me pretend that everything’s okay and trick nearly everyone else into believing the same.  (Sometimes I wonder if the masks just make things worse, though.)

There’s only one person in my life that I’m open with. They’re the only one I trust completely. They know about everything: The anxiety, the past trauma, the depression… And to be honest, they’re part of the reason I’m still alive and cut-free. Because they care about me, listen to me and help me get through the tough shit. It’s scary to think where I’d be today without that one special person. (Because I know where I’d be. I wouldn’t be feeling, much less breathing.)

But meanwhile, I will continue to lie to everyone else, because I’m afraid of what they might say if they knew the truth. And it’s easier to hide than to risk letting people know the truth and have them use it against me. There’s so much stigma around depression, anxiety, and so many other mental illnesses. Even in my own family, where depression is common (and I have a relative that’s possibly suffering from schizophrenia), it’s still not entirely understood by everyone. Sure, most of us are there for each other when we need it, but not everyone understands why X person is depressed or suicidal.

I wish things were different. That those of us suffering didn’t have to hide for fear of ostracization and judgment. Maybe one day, more of us can speak out and help fight the stigma. Because things do need to change, if only for the sake of reducing shame and saving more lives.

(To everyone reading this: Please remember you are loved. I know it’s hard to believe sometimes. I still struggle with feeling worthy of love. But you are a human being, a breathing, living human being with hopes and dreams and you deserve to have an amazing life. Your mental illness/illnesses is a part of you, but it isn’t all of you. Your mental illness doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re still pretty damn amazing. My Twitter DMs (@nanogeekette) are always open if you need a random internet stranger to confide in. <3)

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About Kelley:

I’m a badass, sixteen year old queer (bisexual-ish?) pixie. Dancing and writing are my two favorite artistic passions, and I hope that I can continue pursuing them for a long time. When I’m not in the studio or working on my blog, I’m babysitting my siblings and spending a lot (read: probably too much) time on Twitter.

Blogger: thepsychohaswritten.blogspot.com

Twitter: @nanogeekette


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Repercussions Of Speaking Up

The more I try to reach out to teens, the more I see how nervous people are about sharing their story. Because they are scared of the repercussions of speaking up.

I get it, I really do. I had the same fear a couple of years ago.

It’s one of those things where, if you talk about bullying, you worry that your bullies will see it and their anger make them lash out against you even more. Or even worse, someone else you go to school with see it and start bullying you for being week, so you then have to deal with even more bullying.

Or if you talk about depression, you worry your parents will see and be mad you haven’t talked to them about it, despite the fact you have tried time and time again and they just don’t hear you. They don’t see what you are trying to tell them. Not because they are bad parents, but simply because no parent really wants to think about their child being depressed in fear that they have done something wrong as a parent.

Maybe  you are scared that if you talk about being bipolar, the people around you will say you are just a “moody teen.”

I completely understand. I won’t pretend I haven’t faced some of those repercussions myself. Sadly, I have.

But what I think is truly sad about it is that we are silenced by these repercussions and our fear of them. It’s already sad that people truly don’t take teen mental health serious, but we aren’t even really able to talk about it because we are so scared that we will be bullied and treated poorly.

It’s sad that we can’t discuss what we go through without having to fear how people will treat us and if they will use it against us.


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TEEN LINE

Hello Stigma Fighters! TEEN LINE is a Los Angeles, California based teen-to-teen helpline affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Our trained teens answer calls, texts (US only), and emails from around the world 6p.m.-10p.m. Pacific Time. Adult volunteers from Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services answer the helpline number all other hours, providing suicide prevention support.

Our TEEN LINE Listeners are the heart of what we do! We believe teens have the power to change the world. Teens who apply and are accepted complete an intensive 13-week training. Each session is devoted to a different topic such as suicide, depression, relationships, self-injury, bullying, sex, and more. Though these topics are important, we continuously practice empathy and active listening skills. It is important for our teens to offer a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment so teens can feel comfortable sharing what’s on their mind. No challenge is too big or small; the TEEN LINE Listeners are happy to help!

What else can someone expect when you call, text, or email TEEN LINE? We are confidential. Our Listeners are with you, as the name suggests, to actively listen. They do not offer advice and will not tell you what to do. Rather, teens are empowered to make decisions for themselves after they are informed about all of the options available. It is not our place to offer advice, as we cannot possibly account for someone else’s morals, values, or ethics. Each call, text, and email ends with appropriate resources.

Whatever you are going through, you don’t have to go at it alone: https://teenlineonline.org/talk-now/

Call 310-855-4673 or text “TEEN” to 839863 between 6p.m.-10p.m. Pacific Time

Not ready to reach out quite yet or curious to know more? Check out what some other teens have asked: https://teenlineonline.org/ask-teen-line/

Remember – no problem is too big or too small! We’re here to help! www.TeenLineOnline.org

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Mental Health and Perception: Marisa’s Story

There are numerous diseases of the brain that society has accepted to be actual illnesses. A lot of people don’t understand that mental illnesses are just as important as physical illnesses and deserve to be treated with just as much attention. I was one of these people. Until I was diagnosed.

I never realized the amount of ignorance and implicit bias that we as a society have towards mental health. We underestimate the importance of maintaining stable and healthy relationships with partners, friends, and peers. We unknowingly hold unrealistic standards for others, and try to label perseverance and effort when these things are a matter of perception.

Don’t get me wrong, It isn’t unhealthy or wrong to want things, or even to expect things until the things that we want or expect become excessive or unrealistic, for example; setting goals that are far out of reach, but to whom? Your perspective of ‘out of reach’ is your perspective. This is something we must learn. Perspective is everything. Especially when it comes to mental health.

The most common and implicit expectations that we hold in people usually go unnoticed and are unrecognizable to us. I have been interested in psychology ever since I figured out how thoughts lead to feelings which leads to actions, and that mental illnesses were not “all in my head” that they were real and chemical. Something I learned from my current psychologist.

I have been studying psychology and different disorders for months. I can’t help but be interested in something that really concerns me. I have also been observing and studying the #MHChat on twitter, and recently participated in the conversation, when discussing how positive thinking is essential to recovery but cannot simply cure a mental illness.

I was also invited to represent my school in the National Student Leadership Conference to study psychology and neuroscience, however because of financial issues, I will not able to attend.

Because I have chosen to work towards this particular career path, sometimes I can’t help but feel it has more cons than pros. For example, there is so much scattered research and there is not one definite answer to any question. Most questions regarding mental health have yet to be answered because we “don’t know”, also there is such a stigma around mental illnesses, so we are expected to suffer in silence or not suffer at all.

It’s quite difficult to suffer in silence, to pretend your problems aren’t real in public but to suffer so much at home. I’m the introverted yet overly friendly type. Most of the time I keep to myself, but I have a welcoming and positive aura, which attracts people to me, so I’ve heard. I’m a good friend and the kind that would drop anything to be there for someone but I’ve never been part of a particular friend group, I’m more of an outsider and the one that’s friends with the friend groups but not in them. It’s quite difficult for me to pretend my problems don’t exist to socialize and be friendly. No one at school knows that I started skipping meals in first grade, or that I spent 3 summers in a row imprisoned in my own depression, crying myself to sleep, that I quit cheerleading-something I’ve loved since I was a little girl, because of my anxiety. The only people who really know anything are the people who have been subjected to my horrible irritability and “moodiness” who assume that I’m ‘bipolar’ and are partially right.

Feeling misunderstood and unappreciated is not uncommon for teens, but for me, It’s something that I’ve yet to get over and to move forward from. It’s a weakness of mine and is what knocks me down when I think I’m getting better. It’s something that people who have gotten close to me have thrown in my face to knock me down during disagreements. My current psychologist is teaching me how to not let it control me, but not to excuse the people who make me feel like this and quite honestly its been a hard concept for me to grasp.

The stigma around mental health has haunted me. The implicit and insensitive comments that I hear everyday are enough to trigger my inner demons. Hearing “she’s looks anorexic”, “I’m gonna kill myself” “she’s so bipolar” and the responses to questions about mental illnesses in Health class make me so upset, that our world is such an ignorant one.. I’ll stop at nothing to make sure that one day, I will be able to say “I go to therapy.” Without people thinking that I’m crazy. That I can one day eat three healthy meals a day and feel comfortable doing so. That I can one day say “I have a mental illness, but it doesn’t define me.” And I hope the people who are also suffering can find comfort and support.

Living with a mental illness has been the most difficult obstacle for me to overcome and quite honestly I don’t know where I’m going to go from here. But I know that writing about it will be good for me. Talking about it helps and reading from another perspective does benefit other people in a positive way. I’m hoping that someone will be reading this and will want to know more about me or my story. This will not be the last article I write for Stigma Fighters teen. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or requests for me to write about

Marisa


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Let’s Stop Bullying

Truth is, we will never to completely stop bullying. Not 100%, because it’s just our nature it seems. But we can help the children going through bullying, and help to prevent it as much as possible. And as a victim of bullying, these are the things I think will help.

  1. Teach them young.  Bullying affects people of all ages, and children feel things so intensely. I was bullied as a child and I never was taught how to deal or cope. This led to me developing bad habits at a young age because it was the only way I could get through it.
  2. Mindfulness. Let’s teach them to be aware of their feelings and how to express them. if they are able to better express their feelings, it could lead to conflict solving skills and prevent some bullying from starting or getting worse. Too often when kids are young, they are bullying because they don’t know the proper ways to express themselves. Such as, if a student is mad because a child wouldn’t play with them, they may result to name calling like “stupidhead”. May not seem like a big deal to us older people, but to a child, that is heartbreaking.
  3. Assemblies. Most of the bullying assemblies I have seen have been boring. That doesn’t catch a kids attention. When they reach middle school level, we need to begin talking about depression and anxiety, and how bullying can affect those two things. But make them interesting. Grab the kids attention. Maybe have some seniors who have faced bullying come talk about what they went through and how they got through it.
  4. Support groups. Because kids need a place they feel safe to talk about their feelings. And support groups in high schools could give them that. The bullies won’t care enough about it to show up, but the people needing the help probably would. And it would be a great chance for them to make friends with others who understand.


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Skeleton Girl

Middle school gym locker room, a place to laugh and joke with friends for some, and a torturous hell for others. A place where you are forced to shed the clothes that make you feel somewhat confident about yourself, while you stand in a room full of other adolescent girls and boys as they judge you based on your body that may or may not have hit puberty yet.

And this is where I became Skeleton Girl.

But this is to that girl who started the vicious cycle of my love hate relationship with my body.

Dear Girl With A Sharp Tongue,

I remember the first day we had to change. As I pulled my shirt off you exclaimed “I can see your ribs! You’re a skeleton girl. Put some meat on your bones.” That’s how it started.

The looks from the other girls made me uncomfortable as I fumbled to get my gym shirt on. After class the other girls rushed to change, but I didn’t mind being late if it meant they wouldn’t look at me with those eyes.

What brought tears to my eyes that day was that you were the one to start it. Little did you know at the time that I dreamed of being like you. I wanted to be one of the cool kids so that the pain would stop. Maybe everyone would love me more. And you, you were a cool kid who abused your power.

I watched you everyday. You’d pick at your lunch, make excuses as to why you wouldn’t eat. And in gym you’d call me those names.

I loathed my body but I watched as you picked on girls with more weight on their body. And I didn’t want to be like them. Clothes didn’t fit me they way they fit you, and you were quick to shove it in my face. Your curves were so beautiful, but you were quick to tell me that I couldn’t have curves like you. “You better stay small cause if you put on weight, it will be in all the wrong places.”.

But little did you know that everyday I watched you starve yourself. And little did I know your hate you placed on me was only envy.

– Love,
Skeleton Girl

I battled with anorexia silently for years.

In school we were taught about the obesity epidemic. But they didn’t think to teach us about the eating disorders that can lead to being under weight. They talked about how being overweight could be bad for your health, little did I know being too small would be bad too.

I feared gaining weight. Because so often I watched people shrug it off as a few pounds, ten pounds, then 50 pounds later they were wondering where the weight came from.

No, I refused to be that way.

I watched what I ate, and when I felt like I was gaining weight, no matter what the scales said, I’d skip meals. Sometimes went days without eating.

When the kids started calling me skeleton girl I felt lost. D***ed if you do and d***ed if you don’t. I watched them as they shamed a girl for being over weight yet here they are shaming me for being small. I began to want to change, but it was hard.

When your body adjusts to not eating, its hard to adjust it to eating again.

I dated a guy who like showing off how small I was. And any time I began to gain weight, he noticed. He would get so mad that he struck me a few times. It was fuel for the fire.

If you have read anything of mine, you know I began healing when I was 16. But I still have those days. Days where I look at myself and see “fat” I don’t like and spend 3 hours working out, and not eat a thing the entire day.

I don’t talk much about it to this day, because I am still sensitive about my weight. I don’t walk around in a bikini at the beach, not till I get to the water and can hide. I began getting more comfortable with tighter clothes, only for people to comment on seeing my ribs.

But I’m starting to accept myself. I’m starting to love myself. I even wear dresses to boost my confidence sometimes. And for that I’m proud. Small steps forward. Small steps to not being Skeleton Girl anymore.

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Love From Anon

*Trigger Warning* Talk of rape and attempted rape.

I was 14 the first time I met a guy online that I was interested in. Little did I know he was 45, not 16. It wasn’t until I began seeing someone in real life that he decided to reveal his identity. Man, did that mess with my head.

Nonetheless, I returned to the online dating world when I was 15. A few guys would catch my attention but it would never last. I wanted something more serious and they were all so immature. As I talked to my friends about it, they introduced the idea of dating an older guy. My mind went back to that man I had met at 14 and how he said all the right things. So I decided to give it a try.

And that’s when I met him.

From the start I knew he was older, but I didn’t dare ask how old because a part of me knew I wouldn’t like the answer. A few months of constant conversation, and I began to fall for him. He knew all the right things to say. My parents were getting a divorce and that was hard for me. But he was always there.

For the purpose of telling this story, lets call me Anna and him Tommy.

Tommy and I were friends for a year before he mentioned moving. He said he wanted to get away, escape, and that sounded like the perfect opportunity to meet this man I had began to fall for.

I was wrong.

Silly me told him the area I lived in. And before too long, I saw him in my local park. At the time, I wasn’t sure it was him, but looking back I realize that it was him. He looked years older than all of his pictures, so it made it hard to know for sure.

A few days passed, and I had stopped messaging him, so wrapped up in my own depression. He began to send rapid fire messages asking what was going on. Some of them got a little creepy but at the time I shrugged it off. Told myself I was over reacting and that nothing was wrong or weird. That was until one day, I had missed the bus and refused to call my parents knowing they’d be mad. Walking home I noticed a car kept driving by. Once, then twice, three times, and there it goes a fourth, But the 4th time, he pulls over.

“Hey I thought that was you,” the man was smiling. He had to be in his 40’s or approaching 50.

“Um hi,” I was shy.

“It’s me Tommy. Need a ride?”

I had talked to this man online for over a year now. I felt I knew him. I felt he understood me. And I thought he would never hurt me.

I was wrong.

At first, he was polite. I just wanted to get home, but he had another idea. He took me back to his place.

I refused to get our of the vehicle and he got violent. He forced me out of the vehicle and dragged me into his home. I realized he was going to rape me. I knew it and I knew I needed to save my energy so that I could fight back when he was at his weakest. He threw me onto a bed and gently took off my top, which seemed odd to me. But I shut everything else out, coming up with a plan to escape.

That moment when he was weak came, right before he did. I punched him as hard as I could in his face, then pushed him off with what strength I had.

And I ran. Never looking back.

I now live everyday worrying. Panic set into my bones and wove its way through my life. I wish I could go back and tell myself it was stupid, not to talk to him. But I can’t.

I’m 19 now.

But inside, my life stopped after that day.

Be careful who you meet online and how much you tell them, please.


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Having A Voice

Since I began working with Sarah on Stigma Fighters Teen and tried reaching out to people about sharing their story, I have seen that a lot of people are scared to open up.

That’s a problem.

Not because it hinders us or anything we do. But because the stigma surrounding mental illness has created this fear of opening up and getting help. This is the exact same stigma we are trying to fight by sharing our stories and personal experiences so the world can see how normal we are.

In November I wrote a post on my personal blog called Imagine. And the purpose of this piece was to show how common mental illnesses are. That people all around you suffer, and many are too scared to speak up. I wrote it to show that mental illness can affect anyone of any age, of any gender, of any walk of life. There is no one set form of person who has mental illness, and the forms of mental illness are wide spread.

“Imagine a world where everyone had a mental illness. But is it that hard to imagine it?”

Truly think about that for a moment.

Society has created this stigma, because that is honestly the best word for it, that surrounds and engulfs people with mental illnesses. It’s like a heavy smoke that is choking us out and taking our voice.

But the feeling that I got from breaking free of that smoke, from finding my voice, was like I was a whole new person. When I found my voice, I realized how wonderful it felt to have one. Whether that voice is screaming for change through a computer screen or standing in front of one person saying it has to stop. It’s a voice. It’s important. It matters. And it deserves to be heard.

Speak up.

Open up.

Because the only way there will ever be change is if we stand together and show that there needs to be. A few voices screaming for change will never be as powerful as a million voices whispering it.

Sharing my story set me free. It gave me a voice. And for once in my life I felt I was in control. What will your voice say?

Having A Voice


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I Am Strong: Violet

I have anxiety. PTSD. Depression. But most importantly, I lack shame, I have all these things but I am strong beside them.
As a child I was abused, and through my teenage years I can’t say I’ve been in the healthiest relationships, with spatters of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, I became anxious and unable to trust, so part of my mental health was written in the stars of my genetics and part of it was learned behaviour, something my circumstances put me in. I am in weekly therapy and daily consciousness of my condition, I’ve taught myself that I have to be. I self harmed for over three years and I am finally on a relapse free couple of months, I’ve attempted suicide three major times, but a few years ago, I thought about it every waking day. It’s taken a while for me to get okay, to be okay, but that’s alright, now I’m okay, now I am strong, like I said earlier, I am strong beside my mental health, strong within it. Don’t get me wrong, some days are hard, some days are awful, some days I’ve stayed home, ignored my phone and felt useless, for absolutely no reason, but there are great days, cloud nine days, carnival bliss days and lilac fresh mornings, and while those lows are lower than they could be, I am happy.
I am unashamed.
This was vital for me, and for everyone other person I’ve met who has struggled with mental illness.
 I just want to say thank you for reading, for listening, for understanding and for still treating me like the sixteen year old musician I am. It seems strange, but I admit that I still have hesitance when talking about my mental health, I am not ashamed, but I still worry about wording, about seeming like I pity myself for my circumstances.
At any rate, a lack of shame is what helped me through my pains, what helped me find my core and strengthen my sense of self. There’s this sense of shame, a culture of stigmas, in our society and it makes being as open about a therapy appointment as you would be about a a broken leg a very difficult thing. Mental health is too often blamed on the patients, on the afflicted, when it’s not in our hands, it’s in our genetics, in our histories or in what some might call our fate. There’s no way for us it to prevent it, there’s not a “Mental Health Brain Sanitizer” with the catchy sales pitch of “Prevent sticky anxiety and tiring depression! With just one cleaning a day you can be confident that your days will be free of those mental health causing ions! Complete with glitter!”
Dealing with mental health is hard, it’s a lifelong struggle no matter how safe you are, no matter how proud you are, but I will try and give you some tips, they worked for me, and don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they’ll work for everyone, but they did for me.
One of the first things I did was to take a minute, an hour, an afternoon, or, if possible, a day off, do what you need to relax yourself; for me that is lighting incense, setting some Pink Floyd on the turntable and having a warm bath, for my friend it was Tumblr, the blogging site that everyone is so in love with. It doesn’t matter, as long as you feel safe, and away, the most important thing I found was to feel like you were away, away from a town, away from certain people, away from your textbooks, away from the mirrors in your house, whatever makes you comfortable. The second thing I found helpful was emotional distance, not only is physical distance important, like I just mentioned, emotional distance is one of the things that helped me the most, by taking yourself out of your problems. “Thinking” yourself out of a rut, with positive self talk (I know, I know, the word self talk has probably been shot at you by every person you talk to about this, but it does help), for example, I put an alarm on my phone, for before I go to school and before I go to bed, saying that I am a “wonderful princess, who deserves to be happy as heck”, it’s cheesey, but I’ve found that it works. The last major thing that helped me through my worst days was change, even though change used to give me horrendous anxiety attacks, I realized that every time I made a change that I liked, that I wanted and that I controlled, I was happy, I ditched the people who made me upset, and pushed myself to try new things. These sorts of changes could be as small as changing my bedsheets to an unexpected pattern, or putting up some new posters, getting new shampoo, changing my make up style up, changing my wallpaper on my phone, or as big as joining a new school club or extra curricular, learning a new instrument, or changing my route to school. I always felt that change was forced upon me, change was something I was never behind, and now I can say that all the changes I can control, I do.
There’s not much I can tell you, I don’t know you, and you barely know me, but I can tell you how I deal with my disorders and how you are not alone, I will never be able to stress that enough to other people in my position, we are not alone. These feelings, as insulting as it may be to hear, are not new, there are other people in your place, who are entering that position, or who are slowly learning to cope, as hard as it may be. This is one of the greatest resources in the world; similar experiences can give you hope, can give you a support system. There are other people who have felt like this, and nearly everyone has felt some form of this, they may not understand exactly what you’re going through, but they can try and help, talk you through whatever is going on, and maybe you can do that for someone else. Whatever happens, you’ll be okay, whatever happens, remember that you come first in your world, whatever happens, remember that you are not alone.
You got this.
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About Violet:
I am a 16 year old girl who has struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, I am a proud bisexual and social activism, fighting in the name of feminism, I love music, photography and have an incredible desire to travel the world, my twitter account is @pastelspinach and my tumblr is flannelandconverse, if anyone ever wants to talk, I am always available. Above all, I think we’re going to change the world!


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A Bullying Story: Evan

I started getting bullied in first grade. It started when I was five years old and at a field trip at a local pool. I was minding my own business just splashing around in the three foot end and all of a sudden I felt a hand on my back. It started pushing me down, outweighing me, forcing me to go underwater. I got pushed all the way under the surface of the water and then the weight on my back became even more. It turns out that I was pushed under water by a high school student and then sat on for a full minute. All I can really remember of it besides that is hitting my head very hard on the bottom of the pool and blacking out. To this day I can’t swim, I’m afraid of the water because it brings back just too many memories.

In second grade I had a knife pressed against my throat at school. One of the kids in my class decided it would be a “funny joke” to see me have a nervous breakdown in front of the class. When the teacher asked the student why he did it, he responded that he was just doing what a group of kids told him to do. That group of kids ended up becoming the football team, and I was just beginning my twelve years of hell.

Third, fourth, and fifth grade were the same, day in and day out. Wake up, get ready, go to school, get made fun of for various reasons, go to class, get made fun of there, go to lunch and be the last student served because I kept getting shoved out of the way, sit alone at recess and get made fun of, go back to class and get made fun of, then go home, do my homework and get ready for the next day. Throughout all the jokes and emotional bullying, other events unfolded that have scarred me and physically. For instance, the one and quite possibly the dumbest decision of my life was my decision that I should stop eating, start purging, and yes, start cutting. As a fourth grader. I was, by no means “scrawny” in grade school, but I was tired of the jokes about not being the “smallest kid in the class”. Fifth grade started. The bullying picked up. More jokes. More abuse, it started to get physical; shoving and tripping. Trauma started setting in, yet no one cared. Everyone laughed at me and made me feel like a giant piece of nothing.

In sixth grade I was only 3′ 11″, the shortest kid in school, and got glasses, THAT went over well. I started getting shoved against and into lockers and locked in them, I got punched and kicked, yelled at, and cussed out, got my face smashed into walls and at one point had my glasses broken five times in ten days. That went on all through sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, then also in eighth grade the one moment that has permanently traumatized me happened. December 11, 2008. I walked out of the middle school and there was a group of eight people standing in a line blocking me from getting to the playground. Click. The doors closed and locked behind me. I was grabbed, tackled, and pretty brutally beaten. I was punched, kicked, spit on, and got told that “The world would be a much nicer place without the likes of you here to ruin it for us.” I remember that quote still to this day.

High school wasn’t as bad as the incident in eighth grade, but the physical and emotional bullying continued. I was an outcast throughout my school, no one cared. I would sit underneath the staircase during one of my classes on some days. I would try to sit in the back of the class and avoided public speaking at all costs. I would get chased between classes, and all of this happened without teachers realizing it was going on, I believe, and I was afraid to speak up because they would merely get suspended a day or two, then come back and do worse, because the school I went to cared more about football than student’s safety. It’s been something I’ve lived with my entire life, and I’m almost certain some memories will always stay there. As a result, I have an extremely difficult time trusting people. I’m very self-conscious, and I always feel judged by people.

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Evan is an advocate for victims of bullying, self-harm, or ED. You can follow him on Twitter @EvanMerical